This is one of my favorite music centered books I ve read in my life Lopez perfectly blends the dizzying world of schizophrenia with the counter dizzying world of music in a story that will charm musicians and laymen everywhere Being a real person, Nathaniel was not just dialogue and description on the page, but he walked and spoke and pushed his cart through the room as I read Lopez s wording was straightforward, journalistic, and simultaneously deeply personal Although I have never seen and certainly never experienced Nathaniel, I feel as if he is a brother, a sick, tormented brother that I have sworn to protect This is the first straight nonfiction book I ve read that tells a personal story, and I was pleasantly surprised by its elegant delivery.I believe anyone, whether in orchestra or the marching band, who can understand the redemptive power of music would greatly benefit from reading Nathaniel s story And for those who have no clue about music, as the narrator started out, it teaches the power and an appreciation beyond the simple enjoyment of a tune I also believe the awareness it brings to those who suffer from mental illness and or homelessness is an act that should not be understated Before reading the Soloist, I believed a majority if not the entirety of the mentally ill were easily curable by simple medication Clearly this is not the case, and I am open minded now because of this terrific story. I was originally skeptical of this book presenting too polished a case of saving a homeless man Similar to Have You Found Her, Mr Lopez undergoes a personal development in essentially entering the social work field He is naive, shocked, etc Then he is intrigued, obsessed, dedicated But he, too, crosses into a phase of boundary issues He makes himself and his resources available to Nathaniel without a sense of boundaries or limits He also begins his dedication before understanding the illness that has perpetuated Nathaniel s homelessness To his credit, Mr Lopez does a phenomenal amount of research, field work, and background work perks of having a journalist take this awkward role and he learns quite a bit about the illness, the politics, the resources, and even about boundaries This book does a good job of introducing this experience and familiarizing the public with a mental illness and social condition that are all too missunderstood by the general public It really delves into the complexities of offering help to Nathaniel while maintaining his dignity, working with the rhythms of his illness, and the social services capacities However, again, like in Have You Found Her, as a non professional he struggles with boundaries Interestingly, both Steve Lopez and Janice in the other book reach a point to their own horror where they are so exhausted and frustrated that they just wish someone would take the problem off their hands Although both have caring relationships, they realize that a sense of relief would come from their no longer being able to help with Janice, when Samantha is in rehab, Janice rejoices to have time again, she is not allowed to go see Samantha, and yet she feels that someone is taking care of it I think it is a sensation that family members may experience when dealing with the severely and persistently mentally ill, particularly with substance abuse and homelessness mixed in Families are not allotted the boundaries that protect professionals from being too invested or attached because families are expected to be the resource that is always there And yet, families of people like Samantha and Nathaniel endured years and years of turmoil before their loved ones ran off, essentially releasing them from responsibility by not being able to find them To see how Steve and Janice felt the intensity of these feelings with people they had only known a year, and had no true ties to provides a sliver of insight into how painful it can be for families All of this being said, I recommend the book for anyone familiar or not with homelessness or mental illness As a professional it was interesting and I think it must be interesting to any citizen who has walked by a homeless person on the street and wondered about what was going on there. When Steve Lopez Sees Nathaniel Ayers Playing His Heart Out On A Two String Violin On Los Angeles Skid Row, He Finds It Impossible To Walk Away At First, He Is Drawn By The Opportunity To Crank Out Another Column For The Los Angeles Times, Just One Item On An Ever Growing To Do List Violin Man But What Lopez Begins To Unearth About The Mysterious Street Musician Leaves An Indelible Impression More Than Thirty Years Earlier, Ayers Had Been A Promising Classical Bass Student At Juilliard Ambitious, Charming, And One Of The Few African Americans Until He Gradually Lost His Ability To Function, Overcome By A Mental Breakdown When Lopez Finds Him, Ayers Is Alone, Suspicious Of Everyone, And Deeply Troubled, But Glimmers Of That Brilliance Are Still There From An Impromptu Concert Of Beethoven S Eighth In The Second Street Tunnel To A Performance Of Bach S Unaccompanied Cello Suites On Skid Row, The Two Men Learn To Communicate Through Ayers S Music The Soloist Is A Story About Unwavering Commitment, Artistic Devotion, And The Transformative Magic Of Music This book is not a novel, though that is unclear from the cover of my edition It is a true story based on investigative journalism, which eventually tells about the author than the subject So I tried not to judge it by the standards of a novel.The trouble is that Lopez is a journalist, and has been for decades So he writes like one The tropes of newsmen get old fast, which is Ok in newspapers b c you re probably only reading one article anyway But it gets pretty tiresome in a long book when Lopez insists on giving the setting in present tense at nearly every new section of every chapter I m on foot in downtown L.A., hustling back to the office , We meet at Canter s Deli , The Village is a three story redbrick building Or he ll end a chapter or section related to one line of thinking and then start the next with something he mentioned a while back, and then cleverly remind you what he s talking about and how it ties into the main story about Nathaniel But he does it repeatedly, like a three trick pony Whose names are those My classmates at Juilliard END CHAPTER NEXT CHAPTER I half run back to the L.A Times Building, a downtown landmark and he goes on to talk about the building and his job there You can just see that he wants this to be a movie, and the director will cut the scene at the chapter break, and move quickly from Nathaniel s character thread to a shot of Lopez hurrying toward his office This is all very entertaining if not indicative of good writing in an actual movie, but not in a book, done repeatedly.The first third of this book is basically Lopez saying over and over, isn t it weird, this guy is homeless and crazy but he went to Juilliard Well, no, it s not that weird You never know who you re going to find where And musical people are often a bit nuts And we ve seen tons of examples in recent TV, of characters who are overeducated bums This is an old concept cool to find it in real life, but an old concept So the author spent way too much time talking about it.Another old concept that the author spends too much time thinking about is what it means to be crazy, and whether it makes you less human and so to be treated differently Old, old, old It is scary, though, when you get a chance to see how a schizophrenic thinks, and see how similar it is to yourself But not new or interesting.The second third of the book is about Lopez This was good, actually, and turned a two star book into three star I felt like he was hiding the fact that the story was really about him, and I was getting pissed about it But then I came around and saw he was being pretty explicit This book is about how a busy, job endangered reporter takes the time to get to know a crazy bum named Nathaniel, and writes widely read stories about helping him and all the crazy homeless Now a major motion picture That s a story I understand Of course, it diminishes the interesting story about Nathaniel s world, which would have made a good long article or short story in Harper s.But it enhances our understanding of what we think is a correct and reasonable way to live And we compare our views with Lopez s and Nathaniel s And we see how Lopez seems to realize by the end that he was pushing his view on someone who might or might not accept it Lopez does play it hands off, so that was really good But he still has an agenda and pushes toward it Nathaniel should spend the night inside, should be safer, should not cling to a shopping cart, should train his musical gifts, and should make sense Without acknowledging that a person might want to sleep outside, take risks, just have fun practicing his gifts, and not rely on reason or connect to reality Again, old, old, old ideas But at least he forces them by making himself the main character.And of course we have to think about whether he s exploiting Nathaniel of course he is partly, of course that s not always a bad thing We hear about his company s troubles as a way of reminding us that Lopez is still protecting his job and looking for a story, and Nathaniel is the best story he ll ever find And the thousands of other bums he walked by before he met Nathaniel were not, and that s Ok.Oh, and did you know that crazy people are people too Lopez seems far too surprised by this, despite being a reporter in a culture saturated with references to mental illness Of course you can actually be friends with a schizophrenic But Nathaniel as a character was pretty good, and made for great interactions among people, as you try to decode him But since this wasn t fiction, I was constantly reminded that there was a reason for his being in the book, and drawn away from enjoying his personality.This book blew its potential to be funny, and that made me mad once I noticed it My first smile was p 110, and few after that.Wasn t it heroic how the main character got the mayor to come and support fixing Skid Row He s so hot Too bad he never mentions that most of the people there are not schizophrenic, and we re left with the idea that maybe all those people, who we know nothing about, are supremely helplessness through no choice of their own Which is true of many people down and out But many, many of them made some choices leading them down a bad road, and almost none of them would be as resistant to outside help as Nathaniel But b c we have his story told and no one else s, we have only the one perspective on the general issue of homelessness Hopefully the story will encourage people to think, though, when this issue comes up, maybe the people I m talking about have backgrounds like Nathaniel s , instead of just dismissing the hard up That would be positive.There is a lot people could do to help, and this book will get that into people s minds Probably won t make a difference to the problem, but I respect the book anyway for doing what it does I don t enjoy it, but I respect it, especially when the agenda isn t crammed down your throat Still, I didn t learn a thing from this book about the issues, b c the information is already out there many places, condensed as essays.A specific trouble I had was that Alison worries that her bipolar brother will end up like Nathaniel, and Lopez never corrects her He really should say something about the differences b w mental illnesses and the rarity of overlap b w bipolar and schizophrenia And the treatability of both.A last note, this one positive I mentioned before how Lopez decides on the hands off approach to helping people who don t want help, and might not understand how much it will help them I liked that he went for this, and seemed to have his book say that it is hard and perhaps not always right, but usually right, and right in Nathaniel s case It s just one plug for allowing for the natural development of people s personality and freedom. Review by Alan RichBack in September 1964, Jascha Heifetz, the formidable fiddler, was attempting an ill advised comeback recital at Carnegie Hall The crowd out front was enormous, and it naturally included many people with long faces hoping for a turned back ticket to this sold out event I was covering it as a music critic for the New York Herald Tribune of lamented memory At that time, there was a violinist, 20 or so, nice Jewish boy, reasonably talented, who played in a regular spot in front of Carnegie on most concert nights, with his violin case open to receive coins I had the idea that this guy would make a pretty good story for my paper, and what better time than after I had taken him to this night of nights I proffered him my extra ticket he looked at me the way Little Orphan Annie must have first looked at Daddy Warbucks.Come concert time, the seat next to me was fully occupied, not by my grateful minstrel but by a corpulent heavy breather who had bought my extra ticket, at a fairly inflated price, from the street fiddler When I came out at intermission, that guy was still sawing away at his sidewalk station I ve never trusted one of those street players since.Until, that is, Mr Nathaniel Ayers began to restore my faith, with help from Steve Lopez The slice of life columnist for the Los Angeles Times comes into the picture where I might have, if that klutz in New York hadn t sold my ticket Lopez s splendid new book, fashioned from his columns, is called The Soloist A Lost Dream, an Unlikely Friendship, and the Redemptive Power of Music Lopez discovers Ayers first, a lone fiddler playing astonishingly well, on a downtown street corner They meet, some bullshit is exchanged for better or worse, they part, they meet again Nathaniel plays for a while, we talk for a while, an experience that s like dropping in on a dream, writes Lopez Read the rest of the review at O lance que li esse livro para um trabalho de estudo de caso para a faculdade, Steve Lopez n o se aprofunda nas quest es cl nicas da esquizofrenia, mas d uma li o de como se deve tratar um esquizofr nico, com muita paci ncia sobretudo, embora medica o seja tamb m importante Tentei pesquisar se finalmente ele aderiu medica o nesses ltimos cinco anos, mas n o achei nenhuma informa o conclusiva sobre o assunto, a n o ser que at 2011 ele ainda n o a tomava. Steve Lopez does a wonderful job in capturing and sharing the story of Nathaniel Anthony Ayers homeless man, who, in his prime, was a musical protege in Julliard Steve Lopez puts a face to the disease paranoid schizophrenia and mental illness as a whole Lopez reaches into a downtrodden and forgotten community of people to help a man who was left to fend for himself out in the streets without support, family, and treatment for close to 30 years Lopez writes this biography in a journalistic nature, drawing in readers with his wittiness, clever word choices, and infusing his own personality, fears, and joys into this great work A column writer by day, Lopez meets Ayers while out and about Thinking that this man might be his next big ticket story, Lopez seeks Ayers out to hear how a man of his musical caliber is out there living on the streets Lopez in turns finds out about himself than about Ayers, and the mental illness that has wrapped up Ayers for over 30 years Lopez tries to help Ayers in recovery, but soon finds out that recovery is not linear, and it could mean 1 step forward, and simultaneously take 2 steps backwards The road to recovery is slow, cannot be forced, and a great deal of patience is required to help Nathaniel start the process of improving Nathaniel Ayers is a Cleveland, Ohio native, who has transplanted himself to Las Angeles He started his career as a musical genius while in high school, and became a protege that followed in the footsteps of men who helped him path the way into Julliard While at Julliard, Ayers fell prey to the insurmountable pressure of being great, and had a mental breakdown This mental breakdown started his fall from grace, and landed him on the streets as a homeless man with paranoid schizophrenia While on the streets of LA, he comes in contact with columnist, Steve Lopez, and thus a friendship begins Throughout this book, I was fully engaged and educated about this mental illness Even though this book was not about paranoid schizophrenia, Lopez did a wonderful job in painting the picture of a person who goes through life, on a daily basis, battling this sickness I went through similar emotions as Lopez, hoping that Nathaniel would get better with time, frustrated with his bad days, and happy on his moments of breakthroughs I definitely learned a lot about this disease, and also about Nathaniel and how a person could get to where he is I would recommend this book to everyone, especially those who like books that are turned into movies The book makes me want to see this film again, and the film does an excellent job in telling this story I would rate this book a 5 it s definitely in my top 15. I just finished this book and am having a hard time coming up with words to describe how I feel about it Steve Lopez is a columnist for the LA Times who stumbles across a homeless man in a tunnel who is playing a two stringed violin Mr Lopez begins talking to the man, who obviously has a mental illness, and learns that he previously attended Juliard on a scholarship for the bass Mr Lopez leaves the meeting thinking that if this mans story checks out it would be an interesting column.and ends up embarking on a journey to help Nathaniel Anthony Ayers ex Juliard student, lover of music, and victim of schizophrenia, get off the streets and on the path to recovery Along the way, Mr Lopez gains as much, if not , from the friendship than Mr AyersThis book documents the first two years of the friendship between Mr Lopez and Mr Ayers the struggle Mr Lopez has to grasp the extent of Mr Ayers disease, the constant ups and downs of Mr Ayers mental health, and the love and exceptional talent Mr Ayers demonstrates for music which is the bright beacon that cuts through the fog of schizophrenia There is no doubt that Mr Lopez has helped Mr Ayers in many ways simply by providing support and friendship but Mr Ayers relates life lessons that brought a tear to my eye This book was phenomenal and I highly recommend it to anyone looking for something to read this month I also recommend checking out the origninal columns which can be found online I am now looking forward to the movie but know that it will pale in comparison to the book I often become immersed in my reading but it has been a long time since I have been so moved by a story of compassion, friendship, and humanity. The Soloist s story is so well known at this point grizzled newspaper columnist befriends once promising classical musician whose schizophrenia has left him long homeless that there s little need for me to recount it here Steve Lopez s writing is less that of a top tier author and that of a solid reporter today s poetry is tomorrow s birdcage liner , but the true story is well served by Lopez s relatively unadorned and straightforward prose.While Nathaniel Anthony Ayers s story was well told in Lopez s original columns stories I read when they first ran in the Los Angeles Times years back The Soloist offers a cohesive version of the musician s travails There s some filler to bring the story to book length, but not much.To call Ayers s story heartbreaking would be a severe understatement While any story about a man living on the streets because of mental illness would be wrenching, when the man is not only as talented as Ayers is he plays string bass, cello, violin and piano proficiently, and experiments with other instruments but is also intelligent, educated, caring and well spoken, it becomes an even harder story to get through I know it shouldn t be that way we should feel the same compassion for anyone in a horrible situation not of his own making, no matter what his or her talents are but it s nevertheless true.And Lopez is refreshingly honest about such inherent problems in telling Ayers s story Ayers shouldn t get treatment different from Los Angeles s other homeless people, but he does because of his talents and because Lopez is writing about him Lopez is using Ayers to fill his column quota and advance his career, but also genuinely cares about the man Lopez wants to get Ayers off the streets and living a normal life, but Lopez realizes that such efforts are partly to satisfy his own ego Lopez wants to be a good friend to Ayers and have him in his life, but he s sacrificing time with his own family, who should be his first responsibility, to devote so much time to Ayers.I resisted reading The Soloist for a while because, having read Lopez s original columns, I felt I knew the story It turns out, though, that the book is compelling reading even for religious Los Angeles Times followers and easily recommended to anyone who doesn t read Lopez s column Ayers s story is a tough one to tell, and Lopez does a good job telling it without romanticizing it or making it overly maudlin. Geez, where to start Whenever I ve passed by a homeless person, I ve always thought how did you end up here This was a beautifully sad story of one such person So talented but mentally ill A vicious cycle of they should be on meds but the meds don t make them feel right so they don t take them, etc I am holding out hope for Nathaniel.
Steven M L pez born 1953 is an American journalist who has been a columnist for The Los ngeles Times since 2001 He is the son of Spanish and Italian immigrants.
- 273 pages
- The Soloist: A Lost Dream, an Unlikely Friendship, and the Redemptive Power of Music
- Steve López
- 14 April 2018 Steve López